Reichold Street

A loosely woven series of coming-of-age tales set in 1960s America.

In this collection, Herron (One Way Street, 2014, etc.) tackles big themes: mental illness, war, loyalty, abuse, friendship and family. Readers might easily get lost in such broad terrain, but Herron keeps them tethered by a unifying question: How are memories constrained by perspective? In his foreword, Herron describes the book as both anthology and novel; chapters share characters and settings but offer original details and points of view. The first is in small-town America, 1962. Paul, a teenager, watches a new family move into the house across from his on Reichold Street, and he confronts Albert, who looks like a bully, for the first time. Over the next few years, Albert’s stepfather, Carl, terrorizes his family and the neighborhood with drunken abuse as Paul tries to help and Albert rebels. Readers learn to hate Carl while losing hope for Albert. Subsequent chapters, told by Carl, Albert, their family members and other kids on Reichold Street, add layers to these events. Carl’s chapter, seen through his confusion, medication and booze, offers a frightening yet compassionate view of mental illness and its stigma, especially in the ’60s. These opening chapters are the strongest in the collection; the characters are bold, the plot twists surprising, and the point—that we never fully know a person or his or her story—heartbreakingly clear. The middle sections, related by minor characters, add little to the overall narrative; some read as filler, although one, told by a Reichold Street kid lured by organized crime, makes a fine stand-alone story. Toward the end of the book, Herron returns to Albert, his two tours in Vietnam and the pall of that war over American youth. Through flashbacks to Reichold Street, readers further witness Carl’s lifelong, devastating influence on Albert; an additional chapter from Carl’s perspective would nicely round out the book.


Skillfully written and emotionally charged.

Pub Date: March 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475106237

Page Count: 292

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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